2016 Year of Creative Habits: The Quotidian Bones Project

Jan 18

Quotidian BonesBoy, oh, boy, do I love a project, especially when I figure out a smart name for it. Late last fall, I signed up for Crystal Moody’s Year of Creative Habits class. Crystal became an important mentor and model to me over the last few years (go look at her work, sign up for her newsletter–you won’t regret it), and I welcomed the chance to continue the momentum I built from the #2015postcardproject.

After freewriting in response to her prompts, I had the “Eureka!” moment–you know how it feels when idea hits and you realize it is a good idea, right? That happened.

See, back in late November, I was catching up on The Moth. I can’t find the podcast episode to link for you, but one of the storytellers talked about his method for finding his stories: at the end of every day, he opened up a spreadsheet and wrote one sentence that would serve as a prompt for the story he might want to tell from that day.

Did that rock my world? You better believe it. Then I got all mournful about missing making visual art every day. I know myself well enough to know the #2015postcardproject habit would slip away if I didn’t give visual art a new project. And I thought about a few ideas for illustrated stories for adults I have. And: Pop! Bang! Bingo! Hot Dog!

I had it. I would build from the postcard project. I wrote about whatever came to mind for that, and the text was not always a story, nor always related to the image. This new project would connect the two.

Here’s the plan:

At the end of each day (typically before I fix dinner), I will decide what story I can pull from the day. I’ll make an illustration and write a sentence (ok, I’ve already got entries with short paragraphs) to remind me of the story. Once a week, I will develop one of the stories either as a narrative poem or a flash prose piece and make a bigger illustration for it.

I checked in with a few people to see what questions they had about the project…here they are, with my answers:

  1. What’s the deal with that notebook you’re using? It’s a Hobonichi Techno planner. I bought it thinking it would replace my moleskine bullet journal, but I can’t quit my grid. The Hobonichi’s paper is Tomoe River paper, which is super thin yet stands up to a lot–so far, my crow quill pen and india ink, walnut ink, and watercolor.
  2. What do you hope to get out of a daily project, beyond the product? Maintaining the habit of making visual art every day is important to me as is developing the skills and “visual voice” to create the illustrated stories I have in mind. I have a little piece hanging next to my desk that reads “Great Creator, I’ll take care of the quantity, you take care of the quality.” I made it when I worked through The Artist’s Way back in 2001. The project is one way I’m committing to taking care of the quantity.
  3. Do you have the idea when you wake up in the morning? Nope. I let the day unfold and see what might make a good piece for the day. Since much of my life is routine (by my choice!), I have to be more observant than usual some days to find a story.
  4. What’s with that name? On New Year’s Day, after our hike and the after-party were done, I asked Neal to help me brainstorm ideas for what to call the project. I wanted “daily” something, but I didn’t want to use “daily”. I thought the word quotidian, which not only means daily (but fancier! With a “q”–my favorite letter after “z”!) (yes, I have favorite letters, don’t you?) but also “ordinary or everyday, especially when mundane“. Since my daily life is generally (by my choice!) a bit on the mundane side, this seemed perfect. We talked about the purpose of the project, how I planned for it to work, what I hoped to get from it. “Skeletons,” Neal said. “You’re building skeletons of stories.” I loved that, but didn’t like the mouthful of “Quotidian Skeletons.” A little more brainstorming, and we hit on “bones.”

I’d love for you to follow along with not only my project, but the super cool projects of my peers–follow hashtag #yoch2016 on Instagram to see the work we’re all doing. Daily.

Let me know if you have any questions about the Quotidian Bones Project or tell me about your own habit building projects for 2016!

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#2015PostcardProject: a review of daily creative habits

Jan 15

Screen Shot 2016-01-12 at 3.34.12 PM

The Final Card

I’ve had a little time to reflect on my #2015PostcardProject, and here’s what I have to say about it:

  1. I did it! I made and mailed 366 postcards–I messed up the numbering at some point, so I made two on the last day.
  2. I experimented with a lot of techniques and media, from watercolors to acrylic ink to bic pens. My favorite technique is an ink drawing with watercolor details added.
  3. I developed a style. What started as a need for a model who would always be available when I was ready to draw (many a selfie card went out into the world), along with facing my fear of drawing faces, grew into a love of making my illustration people.
  4. I forgave myself. A few times, I missed a day and made it up later. The first time it happened, I almost quit the project. And then I didn’t quit. A few times, I made a card so lame that I was embarrassed to send it, but I sent it. And then I tried to make a less lame card the next day.
  5. I like working in series. I had a calligraphy series, a doodle series, a very lengthy famous faces series…whenever I had a series going on, I felt a little more excited about sitting down to make my card.
  6. I made some folks happy. People like mail! I sent to total strangers who later wrote beautiful notes about how much getting a piece of friendly mail meant on that day. Perhaps most exciting, my mom–known for being no-nonsense about clutter–framed the card I sent her. And I even got a few postcards back in return!
  7. I did not dig documenting the project. Originally I intended to post a gallery at the end of each month like I did in January. I did take a picture of all the cards, and a lot of them are posted on Instagram.
  8. I fulfilled my goal of not dropping out of drawing (or painting) once my semesters got busy.
  9. I had fun. I enjoyed trying out new skills as well as imagining my cards wending their way around the world.

If you have any questions about the project, leave a comment. I am happy to share whatever information might be helpful to you!

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Ten on Tuesday: More and Less Edition

Jan 05

Hike 2016Carole’s prompt this week is, of course, perfect for the early days of a freshly minted year: list five things you want to do more of and five things you want to do less of this year.

  1. 1. More community. Since 1992, I’ve started most years with a New Year’s hike. The location and people change, yet it remains one of my favorite activities of the year. What I love about it is the chance to get to know a variety of people, to share an adventure with them. And more of that sounds good to me!
  2. Less anxiety. Is it age? Is it circumstance? What ever the reason, more often than I like, I find myself frozen, heart pounding, palms sweating, breath short, unhelpful thoughts circling in my head. A whole lot less of that will make me happier.
  3. More spirituality. My divorce from religion left me at sea about how to embrace my inherent spirituality. The yoga and meditation practice I mentioned last week helps. A lot. Noticing helps, too, especially when I’m noticing interesting trees or patterns or creatures on my daily hike. And increasing my attention to my spirituality and beliefs makes a big difference in breaking the anxiety.
  4. Less negativity. From swearing over inconveniences that do not warrant such language to letting news headlines spiral in my head, I want to learn to reframe the negatives. Because, face it, avoiding them altogether may not be realistic.
  5. More indulging my curiosity. Curiosity is one of the core driving forces of my life, and I plan to embrace it even more. Instead of just wondering about everything from what birds are at my feeder to why language develops the way does, and then letting the thoughts pass, I’ll investigate the most interesting ones, at least a little bit.
  6. Less carelessness. Know what I spent time doing yesterday and will do again today? Pulling back ribbing from the cast-on edge of a sweater. Know why? Because I was careless and made the back ribbing longer than the two fronts and sleeves. Enough of that!
  7. Less eating sweets. Oh, boy, do I love me a cookie! Or a sliver of pie. Or…whatever it is hanging around in the treat drawer. I don’t overindulge, but I indulge with little tastes often, which I fear adds up to something close to overindulgence.
  8. More green smoothies. I started drinking green smoothies over the summer, inspired by mysmoothie lovely colleague Leah. Not regularly, though. Which is silly since they are so good and good for me. So more of them to come. Like, daily more.
  9. Less procrastination. I first wrote that as “less planning” because what I mean to say is I do a lot of thinking and dreaming about a task or project when I more often should simply start it. Sooner started, sooner done, right?
  10. More making. Last year I started along the path of a me-made wardrobe. This year I plan to make more of my clothes (and don’t worry: that doesn’t mean I’m abandoning my minimalist wardrobe, but that I’m replacing worn or no-longer-used items with those I make. And it also means that I want to make more items for our home, from potholders to curtains. And that I want to make more meals instead of ordering take out when I’m tired. Making makes me happy, so why not embrace more of it!

How about you? What do you want more and less of in 2016?

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Ten on Tuesday: 2015 Review Edition

Dec 29

in knittingToday Carole invited me to reflect on Ten Things I did in 2015 That Made Me Feel Proud:

  1. Launched MotherShould? with my friend and colleague Catherine. I’m proud of the writing I’ve done for the site and of the content we’re getting from other writers.
  2. Revised my novel and worked with generous, smart Cari Luna to determine what to do next with it.
  3. Sent out my first agent queries. While I have no problem creating, I often fail at finding homes for my work.
  4. Took excellent care of my dogs. Losing Tilly in April was rough, but I feel proud of the care she received, right until the end. And I continue to feel proud of the almost-daily hikes I take with Oskar and Coco.
  5. Celebrated my tenth blogging anniversary–extra credit to you if you remember when I blogged at Wearing Black in New Mexico. I feel proud that I’ve kept blogging for a decade, and I’m so grateful for the friends I’ve made through blogging.
  6. Got serious about sewing garments. I took two pattern drafting classes with my dear Cal (who is an amazing teacher, in person AND online!), and I made several garments. I feel proud of this new dimension to my Ethical Elegance project.
  7. Started a daily yoga and meditation practice. Okay, so this is a brand new thing that I feel proud about. And it all started because Allegra posted a picture of a mala she made. I asked her to make one for me to help me with challenges I face, and she sent me a beautiful mala, which has lit the fire for this practice in me.
  8. Developed my calligraphy skills. I have a lot to learn still, but I made a good start taking a Copperplate and an Uncial class this year. I have a multi-media poetry project in the works, and lettering is a key part of it. selfie
  9. Purged excess craft supplies. Oh, don’t you worry about my being snowed in without a new knitting project possible. This year’s birthday gift from Neal was a transformation of my office to a studio. I wanted a space not dedicated to work, but dedicated to creative play. That meant clearing out a lot of unused yarn and fabric and donating a ton (that might be literal) of books. It feels amazing to pare down my supplies and really know what I have.
  10. Maintained a daily creativity habit through my #2015 Postcard Project. I have loved making and sending the postcards all around the world, and I’ve learned a lot about techniques and media I enjoy using. Stay tuned for an entire post about all that!

Your turn. What did you do in 2015 that makes you feel proud?

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From Makers for Makers: 2015 Gift Idea List

Dec 08

We don't (yet) have ice or snow, but doesn't it make you feel more festive to see a picture like this?

We don’t (yet) have ice or snow, but doesn’t it make you feel more festive to see a picture like this?

I’ve gathered together a few of my favorite makers to share our 2015 Holiday Gift Idea lists with you. All week long we’ll post cool indie-made items, can’t-do-without tools, and favorite diy projects.

  1. Whether you make one to give or offer a crafty loved one a kit, Alicia Paulson’s softie kits are darling. Her instructions are clear as can be, and while I can’t spill any beans about what’s happening re: softies at my house, take my advice and order a kit for yourself, too.
  2. For watercolorists, Greenleaf and Blueberry hand makes my favorite paints. She’ll help you customize a kit, or you can order the paints and make your own in an old tin.
  3. If your favorite artist prefers drawing, TSandN’s crow quill pens are beautiful. Christine responded quickly to loads of questions when I ordered mine, and I enjoy drawing with it.
  4. Book lovers, journal keepers, or magpies who need to keep stacks of paper in order will love the monogrammed burlap bookends from Next Door to Heaven. Mine are currently holding most-referenced books of the semester upright.
  5. There are a lot of terrific project bags on the market, but my favorites are Stitched by Jessalu’s box and bucket bags. The quality is excellent, and Jessalu, an avid knitter and spinner, understands a stitcher’s needs. You’re bound to find a bag in a fabric that will suit every friend!
  6. Need a charming bijoux? Sara from Et Voila! Design crafts her jewelry from vintage pieces she finds in French brocantes and American flea markets. I always get compliments whenever I wear one of her pieces!
  7. No time to knit, but you want to give a cushy handmade scarf? My former student and dog lover extraordinaire Chelsea sells scarves and hats to raise funds for no-kill shelters at Scarves for Paws.
  8. Anything from Alabama Chanin makes a welcome gift, but I think this Starter Sewing Kit is a great project for a new #chaninista.
  9. Another make-it-yourself-or-give-it-as-a-kit,-but-make-sure-you-order-one-for-yourself gift idea (phew! What a mouthful), totally stolen from Jani: a limited edition Starcroft Tide Pool, which longs to be a pair of Through the Loops’s Kanagwa Mittens and a Trig hat by Mary Lou Egan.
  10. And if you have Starcroft yarn in hand, you’ll love Gale’s Nash Island postcards, too!
  11. These HodgePodge Farm crochet mug cozies, especially with the Cuppow lid, make an adorable, environmentally-friendly gift for your loved ones who are always on the go with their morning (afternoon, all-day) coffee.
  12. When you want a little something to add to a gift set, Amy sells notebooks–perfectly sized for a handbag, project bag, any bag–that feature her awesome original art.

Be sure to check out these lists all week long:

Wednesday: Mary Lou Egan

Thursday: Cal Patch

Friday: Gale Zucker

And don’t forget to leave a comment with your favorite gifts-for-makers ideas!

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Get Ready for Craft Friday!

Nov 20

fabricWe’re only a week away from the rebellious extravaganza that is CRAFT FRIDAY!

With a few years of Craft Friday experience, I thought I’d share some preparation tips:

  1. Make a recipient list: who is worthy of your hand made lovelies?
  2. Get inspired: I love looking through the Craft Friday Pinterest board. Let me know if you’d like to join the pinning fun!
  3. Decide on a craft or two: last year Neal and I made watercolor journals and watercolor kits out of Altoid tins. We spent the entire day in production mode and at the end of it had great gifts to share with some special people. This year I’ll be doing lots of stitching.
  4. Get your supplies ahead of time: I’m putting a call in to my favorite fabric store tomorrow to get my Craft Friday order placed.
  5. Set up a Craft-In: I’ve invited local friends and family to stop by on Craft Friday for a little bit of making. I’m sure I’ll be inspired by their projects!
  6. Prepare good snacks: Once you’re in making mode, you won’t want to stop to fix lunch or dinner. I’m going to make a crock pot lentil stew and have lots of non-messy snacks ready for anyone who stops by to craft with me.

Be sure to check out Mary Lou’s Craft Friday giveaway post! Who knows, maybe pumpkin yarn is exactly the right supply for your Craft Friday endeavors! I’m not sure I’d give away whatever I made with that gorgeous yarn!

Here are a few more ways you can participate:

Twitter (tag related tweets with #CraftFriday).

Join the Flickr Group. Tag your Instagram posts with #CraftFriday

This weekend, I’m making two lists: folks to whom I want to give a gift, and hand made gift ideas. I’ll stash dive and then make a supply list and start shopping at non-big-box stores to gather all the goods I need for Craft Friday.

Let me know if you’re in by leaving a comment. And if you have a blog, write a declaration–you don’t have to spill the beans about what you’re going to make if your recipients read the blog, but how about you share WHY you’re inspired to make instead of shop? We’ll have a Craft Friday Declaration Post Party on Friday, November 27, and I’ll add a link round up here so you can feel the support and love of our community.

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2015 Craft Friday

Nov 13

Abingdon shawl by Through the Loops

Abingdon shawl by Through the Loops

Like many of you, I refuse to participate in Black Friday. I don’t like the pressure to participate in rushing around to get “deals” on things no one needs. For a number of years I’ve opted out of the frenzy, and in 2013, I declared that in my world, Black Friday has been re-branded. It’s now Craft Friday!

There’s been a swell of folks who enjoy spending the day after Thanksgiving crafting for loved ones or their favorite charities. I want all of us to feel that swell, to enjoy our community of crafters.

Want to join? Here are some ways:

Pinterest Craft Friday Board  (feel free to follow it, or follow me and ask to join the board if you want to pin on it). Tag your pins #CraftFriday

Twitter (again, tag related tweets with #CraftFriday).

Join the Flickr Group. Tag your Instagram posts with #CraftFriday

This weekend, I’m making two lists: folks to whom I want to give a gift, and hand made gift ideas. I’ll stash dive and then make a supply list and start shopping at non-big-box stores to gather all the goods I need for Craft Friday.

Let me know if you’re in by leaving a comment. And if you have a blog, write a declaration–you don’t have to spill the beans about what you’re going to make if your recipients read the blog, but how about you share WHY you’re inspired to make instead of shop? We’ll have a Craft Friday Declaration Post Party on Friday, November 27, and I’ll add a link round up here so you can feel the support and love of our community.

You in? Yeah, I figured you would be.

 

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